MONTE CARLO, MONACO - Kei Nishikori moved closer to his first Masters title on Friday, with a 6-4, 6-7 (1-7), 6-3 quarterfinal win over Croatia’s Marin Cilic.
Cilic, who had won both of their two career finals meetings, including the 2014 U.S. Open, had not lost to Nishikori since the 2015 Japan Open, but has now lost both their matches on clay. But this one was not easy despite Cilic injuring his right thigh. The Croat rallied and fended off three match points before finally succumbing in the final set.
“It was a long match and I found it hard to maintain my concentration,” Nishikori said after the 2-hour, 55-minute clay-court clash. “In the third set, although he put me under pressure, I was able to bear down and concentrate in the final two games.
“All my matches here have been played at a high level, but I still have corrections to make and I’m getting better little by little.”
Nishikori, ranked 36th in the world, was extremely composed at the start of the match, rarely missing his shots. But he faltered when Cilic was hurt and on the ropes in the second set.
Nishikori will play No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who beat Richard Gasquet 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, in the semis.
Top seed Rafael Nadal won nine straight games to open his match against Dominic Thiem, quickly advancing to the semifinals with a 6-0, 6-2 victory. Nadal will next face Grigor Dimitrov, who beat No. 6 David Goffin 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) in an error-filled match.